Orkisz takes command of GAF Tactical Training Command

  • Published
  • By Sonja Shafer
  • German Air Force

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – The German Air Force Tactical Training Command here welcomed its new commander Jan. 26, 2022, during a change of command ceremony.

Col. Frank Orkisz took command of the TTC, replacing Col. Werner Theisen, who had commanded the organization since it moved from Holloman AFB, New Mexico to Sheppard in 2019. GAF Maj. Gen. Peter Klement, Commander Flying Units, German Air Force Forces Command, officiated the ceremony.

Orkisz’ wealth of experience and his consistent usage structure qualifies him exceptionally well for this new job. The position is considered among the most important and most beautiful aviation assignment for a superior in the GAF.

The TTC’s mission is to command, supervise, manage, and advise all GAF flying training based in the United States as well as assist, liaise, and support GAF Exchange Officers/Non-commissioned Officer and NATO flying in Canada. Additionally, the TTC assists and supports GAF Flying Unit exercises and deployments in the United States and Canada.

Orkisz received his flying training at Goodyear, Arizona, and Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, in the mid-90s to become a weapon system officer. He served at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, for five years, first as part of his training as a flight instructor on T-39 Sabreliners and later as a squadron commander of the 2nd GAF Training Squadron.

After beginning his career in the German Navy, Orkisz transferred to the Air Force after completing his flight training. There he went through all the major leadership positions within a flying unit. He has more than 1,800 flying hours, 1,250 of them in the backseat of the German Tornado combat aircraft. After his active “wizzo”-time, he served for several years as a department head and referent in higher command authorities, the German Air Force Command and even in the Federal Ministry of Defense.

During his assignment in the GAFFC, he served as section chief, responsible for all GAF aircrew training at the GAFFC level. Prior to that, he served as the commanding officer, Air Liaison Office at the German Navy Command, coordinating all Air Force matters and operational requests to the Navy and vice versa. As part of Joint Operations, he was directly advising the commander, Operations Forces and Division Chief Operations.

Klement, who traveled from Cologne, Germany, to officiate the event, reminded Orkisz that his new assignment will be demanding, especially as a superior officer and leader in the organization.

“Your future main task, the administrative and disciplinary leadership of the German course participants, will require a lot of travel, especially to Pensacola and Goodyear,” the general said. “And one thing we must not forget under any circumstances: The Corona(virus) Pandemic is not over yet. You should be prepared.”

The effect of the pandemic even reached the TTC as the ceremony, originally scheduled to take place at the Sheppard Event Center, was scaled down and hosted in the TTC conference room. Klement concluded that in the best interest of everyone’s well-being and safety, the ceremony was limited to a minimal number of GAF personnel present and others attending via video conference.

Like almost everything and everyone on this planet over the last 2 years, the Corona pandemic had a significant impact. The particular difficulty for all members of the German delegation here in the U.S. was, and still is, constantly moving between two worlds due to the different situations in Germany and the United States.

For Theisen, as the military leader of the TTC, the difficulty during his tenure was to meet the requirements of the host nation on one side and those from Germany on the other. From vaccines to flight operations and overseas travel, navigating the pandemic was an extremely stressful situation for everyone involved. The main problem was not always to be able directly on site. Many things had to be managed virtually over long distances.

“This was a challenging task, which Colonel Theisen mastered with excellence,” Klement said.

Theisen expressed his sincere thanks to the men and women of the 82nd Training Wing, its leadership and units, and the Sheppard community for welcoming him and his men and women here in Texoma. He especially thanked the German Element at the 80th Flying Training Wing’s Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training at Sheppard for their “German” support during the transition from Holloman to Sheppard.

He pointed out that although TTC is small in numbers, it is an important link between the command structure in Germany and the different German training units and the GAF Exchange Officers and NCO. The duties and responsibilities of his staff are great and he thanked everyone for an excellent performance.

Theisen’s next assignment will be as section chief, Operations Group at the Bundeswehr Joint Operations Command in Potsdam, Germany.